Local family encouraged by new colon cancer screening

Posted Sunday, August 17, 2014 --- 8:12 p.m.

A Prairie du Sac family hopes a new screening for colon cancer will help prevent other families from going through what they have.

Earlier this week, a Madison company called Exact Sciences received FDA approval for a new screening method to help detect colon cancer. "Cologuard" is performed by analyzing DNA in a stool sample. A Cologuard test is mailed to the patient, who performs the sample at home and mails it in to be tested.

The screening tests for signs of precancerous and cancerous growths.

The new test is encouraging for Jim and Catherine Gainey. In 2013, Jim was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer at age 31.

"We were not expecting this at 31," Catherine said.

Jim has a family history of colon cancer, so he had always planned to get tested when he turned 40. But after getting sick in 2012, his diagnosis came much sooner than the couple could have imagined.

"As of right now, 2014, there is no cure for what I have, they can only treat it," Jim said.

The father-of-two is undergoing bi-weekly chemotherapy treatments and his condition is considered "stable."

The experience has lead Jim and Catherine to become advocates for early detection screenings. They hope Cologuard will cause more people to get screened.

"There are so many people that think that having a colonoscopy is such a drag and they don't want to do it and they don't want to do the prep... I think this will be a great tool hopefully to catch it as early as possible," Catherine said.

Cologuard is for low-risk patients. If any growths were found during the stool sample exam, the patient would need to follow up with a colonoscopy.

Dr. Michael Allen, Dean and St. Mary's gastroenterologist, said Cologuard is a promising new technology and creates another option for screening. At this point, he said the technology still carries several questions, such as whether it will eventually replace colonoscopies for certain people.

Allen said his main concern is how well Cologuard can detect small polyps (growths). If people have one negative test, they might be falsely reassured they don't need a follow-up screening, he said.

For Jim, the increased awareness and research surrounding colon cancer is a step in the right direction.

"Ask about your family history. Don't wait, especially since it's easier and quicker to do. Don't put it off because chemo is overrated," he said.

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